We get the pleasure of chatting with Chris Flack from Strategy. Chris is Design Director in the Christchurch office, he shared with us what Strategy looks for in a graduate, one of his favourite designs and a little bit about his personal project that went viral Comic Sans for Cancer!
Where do you gather inspiration, on and off the web?
Online. I generally look at collate along with flicking through behance to see what’s been going on. I also get a lot of links from twitter and instagram followers. I probably spend too much time on online thesaurus’s as I find its very important as a designer to be able to use the power of language to your advantage. Offline. We are very fortunate to have a great library of books at Strategy along with subscriptions to a few design magazines. I’m a big fan of the Creative Review magazine, every time I pick one up a for a quick read, I’m inspired by what I find, even on the second or third read. I’m quite interested in critical thinking around graphic design at the moment so I still prefer books to websites as it is a better medium for more in-depth discussion and analysis.
Tell us about where you are today and what you love about your job!
I’m Design Director at Strategy Design & Advertising in Christchurch, New Zealand. What I love is seeing ideas come alive and adding value to clients. We are very fortunate to have a talented team and exciting clients that are constantly pushing us. I’m a big believer in clarity and simplicity in whatever it is you are doing. I really enjoy the energy of the studio and the chance to collaborate with the other 4 studios in the Strategy network. And you never go hungry at Strategy as the fortnightly cooked lunches make sure of that.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
Early on I did a project at Strategy fresh out of design school. It was called ‘Santa vs Jesus’. The Sunday Star Times had asked some of the top agencies in New Zealand to rebrand Christmas for an article they were publishing on the modern concept of Christmas. My idea was very simple: a boxing match. The Father of Xmas vs the Son of God. Religion vs commercialism with the reader deciding the outcome. All executed in a contemporary illustration style. The Sunday Star Times ended up running it on their cover. For me, it had the perfect blend of idea, craft and execution. More recently it’s been a couple of projects I did while working in London. These included developing the brand identity for the 60th anniversary of Martini Racing and working with David Walliams on the launch of Swim Britain and Michael Schumacher on a global campaign for Bacardi Limited.
What qualities and skills do you look for in a graduate?
A tight portfolio is a must. After that it comes down to what we call ‘fit’. What I mean by this is how they fit into the culture at Strategy. We work in a fast-paced and demanding industry and we don’t have time to deal with ‘Prima Donnas’. I’m a big fan of designers who know when its time to knuckle down and when its time to have a laugh. I always look for energy, hunger and design thinking. As it’s a lot harder to train designers to think than it is to design. I like designers who take initiative and make things happen so personal projects along with passion and a love of the craft help graduates to stand out. We take graduates through a self-directed learning programme at our studios focussing on the core competencies that we believe make a great designer – typography, image making and craft.
Any personal projects you would like to share? past, present or future?
Last year I created Comic Sans for Cancer. It was a campaign and exhibition that used the 20th anniversary of Comic Sans (the font we all love to hate) to raise money for Cancer Research. The campaign had a global online reach of 13 million people, raised over $12,000 for Cancer Research and was featured in a wide range of publications/blogs such as Mashable, Creative Review, Design Week and Digital Arts. We got a mixture of international designers, along with emerging and established talent involved. These included Vincent Connare (Comic Sans creator), his nemesis Ban Comic Sans, Build, Bunch Design, Believe In, Hey Studio, Purpose, Spin, Sawdust, The Partners, Kiosk – and many many more. Along with getting abusive emails from my design peers (ha!), it proved my long held conviction that if you have a great idea and make it share-able, anything is possible; even making comic sans popular for a day.
Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
There is a lot going on professionally at the moment. We currently have quite a few exciting projects on the go involving the arts sector in Christchurch; something we, as a studio, are very passionate about as Christchurch rebuilds its cultural offering after the 2011 earthquakes. We are also just putting the finishing touches on our annual studio book called ‘Thinking’. Each project we undertake at Strategy involves significant research, planning and conceptual work before any creative gets underway. This book contains over 80 pages of case studies and articles. In this issue, we focus on cultural branding and how that is changing the brand landscape.
Personally, I’ve just bought a house on the hill in Christchurch. So I’ve finally got somewhere to hang all my dusty posters I’ve collected over the years. And the most important project ‘The Dreaded Wedding invite’ for the hardest client of all, my fiancee! Strategy Design & Advertising Founded in 1992, Strategy is an independently owned, award-winning, design-led advertising agency with studios in Christchurch, Auckland, Wellington, Sydney and Tokyo. We help our clients achieve their objectives by creating effective communications. We do this through smart thinking, impeccable craft and client relationships based on high levels of trust and respect. We have proven success through our many years of experience, and a team of talented and passionate people across five studios who work together to produce consistently great results.