Postcard from Wellington, New Zealand
Janelle Rodrigues, founding partner and creative lead at graphic design and brand strategy agency Creature, speaks to Transform about the branding scene in New Zealand, also referred to here by its Māori name of Aotearoa. Rodrigues has extensive branding experience from working in design agencies throughout the country before setting up Wellington-based Creature in 2003.
There are many branding agencies throughout New Zealand. How does Creature stand out?
That is a tricky question as I usually rely on others to tell me that. I think it is as much about who we are, where we’ve been and what we care about, as it is about the output of our work. But I do think our work is a bit different to some other agencies – it is bold, often has an edge to it and is playful, sometimes with a wink of humour. I hope we add to the design landscape of Aotearoa – there is always a design agency out there to match an organisation's own vision and values.
Is there a particular landmark or place in Wellington which fills you with inspiration?
I’m a coastline addict… and the Wellington region has a lot of that! The south coast is wild, beautiful and bracing and where I live in Eastbourne is sheltered, warm and nurturing. I love it all.
What is your favourite project you’ve worked on since founding Creature in 2003?
I don’t really play favourites – not that I think this is a bad question… it’s just that I love different projects for different reasons. Sometimes it’s because of a great relationship with our client, or that the work does actually work – it makes change, recognises an idea that is new, gives people hope, and sometimes creates a space to play. My top favourites would be; Confitex, Fringe Festival and my most recent projects, Horticulture NZ Vegeheads and Astoria Restaurant.
How do you make your branding work relevant for the diverse range of clients you’ve collaborated with over the years, from Hutt City Council to OJI Fibre Solutions?
I think we are empaths and can attempt to assimilate into an organisation’s culture. We use all our experiences and tap into our wide group of friends, whanau and clients to see similarities with how people feel, what they want out of life and go from there. I hope that is why our work can be quite different depending on who our client and audience is. I guess we do have a type of ‘house style’ but I'd love to think the work bounces around and embraces the client’s audiences.
About 300 miles north of where Creature is based is the far larger city of Auckland. What perspective can design agencies from Wellington offer that Auckland-based agencies cannot?
I’d have to go out on a limb here… and it feels a bit shaky.
I’m not sure we do or can offer any services that are different – and I don’t think it’s about city-based skills or difference unless your client’s organisation requires a deep knowledge of that city. The fact is we can work remotely and now travel to our clients, we don’t need to live full-time where our clients are… we just need to connect to them and with them. I hope that doesn’t seem like a cop out.
Do you see a positive future for branding in New Zealand?
Yes, more than ever. Some of the ideas I may have pitched over previous years now feel like they are making headway and are being actioned. While that can feel a bit disheartening at times, it’s also a positive thing. Our work in Aotearoa is starting to feel closer to reflecting who we are and who we want to be. It’s definitely expressing a place I feel proud of… not wearing rose tinted glasses here, but we are walking a much better path for sure.