• Transform magazine
  • October 20, 2017

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Five minutes with Nick Vaus and Paul Domenet

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Forming the axis of much of its brand work, creative design agency, DewGibbons + Partners, champions what it calls ‘Beautiful Thinking’ as a key pillar of every brief. Yet the agency’s unique approach to design has long favoured the duality of beauty and communication. In early 2016, DewGibbons + Partners took on the expertise of former Saatchi & Saatchi creative director, Paul Domenet. Alongside creative director, Nick Vaus, the pair’s collaboration is poised to form the blueprint to the agency’s future direction. Speaking exclusively to Transform magazine, Vaus and Domenet explain the agency's brand strategy.

How does DewGibbons + Partners balance the dovetail of both design and communication as key principles of its brand work? 

Nick Vaus: It’s our absolute foundation, I think that creating a brand idea at the beginning and asking; what is the reason, the rationale, why are we doing it and what’s it going to deliver? From that, it’s about how you’re going to execute it, one way to execute it is through packaging, another way is through communication. For us, Beautiful Thinking must have that original source at the heart of the brand idea. Also, from our perspective, Paul brings in a completely different side that we haven’t had in the business before. We’re visual junkies, but Paul offers thought-provoking and inspiring words that push us into a completely different design direction, enriching us with the strong backbone of language.

Paul Domenet: For me, I’ve been used to working on projects where the design has been decided and then we come up with an idea. Often you see a piece of print advertisement or a visual poster with an idea and a design, and the two have very little to do with each other. We wanted to see what happens if you start with the two being absolutely interlinked. Instead of seeing it as comms and design, it becomes a seamless process where both things are involved the whole way through.

Specialising in sectors such as beauty, health and luxury, how do you navigate the brand challenges brought about by these diverse industries?

PD: Firstly, because Beautiful Thinking is at the heart of everything we do, it encompasses all those elements in just two words. What’s been interesting in something like the world of beauty is that language doesn’t tend to get used a lot there, and words are often overused. Being able to express some of the work we’ve done for our beauty clients through words gives us a unique perspective on that category. Not a lot of other people are thinking that way. The same also goes for luxury, the way that people approach it can be predictable. We’re trying to change that with Beautiful Thinking and the idea that somehow, we’ve cut through what might be clichéd and what might be obvious, to do something that is beautiful but also has substance to it. The danger with luxury and beauty is that it can very quickly become superficial, yet we want there to be a story behind it.

Established since 1997, how has DG+P’s first-hand experience of the changing brand landscape influence projects going forward?

PD: I think in beauty the obvious observations are about mindfulness and respect and so on. These are all very powerful, welcomed and much needed changes. I think one of the great things about what we’re doing is that the core thought of Beautiful Thinking is incredibly adaptable and versatile, and it must be futureproof. Who knows where beauty is going to go in the future, already we’ve moved from a world that’s very pharmaceutical focused to one that’s much more organic. Overall, there’s a lot of people competing in an incredibly crowded marketplace. 

How do you maintain a ‘boutique, tailored approach’ to your projects?

NV: There are sectors that we just really know and we’ve got an absolute interest in. We haven’t got an interest in promoting tomato ketchup. We’re into beauty, we’ve got beauty junkies in the studio, we attend conferences and we know exactly what’s coming out. Subsequently we can communicate that with authority to our clients, just the same in the luxury, wellness and lifestyle space. Keeping our fingers on the pulse within those areas is crucial, it’s something that makes us tick. One consumer’s shampoo need is different to the other’s, yet although they’re broad sectors, they’re sectors that we have absolute confidence to talk through and convey to our clients. Who knows where that’s going to go in the future, however.

PD: Health is a very broad spectrum, to us it doesn’t make any difference that gyms are to do with health. We can go in many directions with this without losing what we’re known for and what we’re good at. Beautiful Thinking is what allows us to start moving into different avenues within the same territory. Health has become an enormous part of people’s thinking, and it’s still rapidly expanding.

As design continues to develop, the persistence of minimalism, duotones and bright colours often takes precedence for modern brand identities, do you think we’ll see a departure from this kind of design strategy?

NV: Away from aesthetics, our mission is that we do not want to disconnect the brand message. Time and time again you look at a piece of design and communication, and it is often designed in isolation. The communication message is not reflected on the packaging, and it has a lazy feel. When we think of the brand aesthetic, we want to make that a seamless and holistic approach, which boils down to a more traditional method in delivering design.

PD: Sometimes you look at the link between design and the product and it’s a bit tenuous. We’re trying to ensure that with every design we’ve got, there’s a story behind it, a story that we can tell to the consumers, and one that we start by playing back to the clients – with what we think their product is about. When we start with the story, the design automatically has more substance to it. For us, the design says, ‘Look at me,’ and the communication says, ‘Hear what I’ve got to say.’