Meet the team: Berkeley’s design team talk creativity in coronavirus campaigns and Christmas ads

Written by Kate Bartholomew

21 December 2020


In our last meet the team blog of 2020, we speak to our design team. Berkeley Communications’ creative director, Matt Smith, and graphic designer, Michael Matthews share their thoughts on the creative side of storytelling and communications – from the impact of the pandemic through to the power of print media, campaign clarity and creativity at Christmas.

What three skills make a good designer?

MATT: The ability to listen is key, especially as client goals and expectations evolve. Being able to adapt and remain creative at all stages of a project is paramount.

MICHAEL: It’s difficult to list just three so I would have to say observation, objectivity, clarity, communication and understanding. Overall, good design should be transparent.

What impact has the pandemic had on the way you work?

MATT: Every business and role has been affected in different ways but for us, remote collaboration has increased significantly, as has on-screen proofing, and strangely a desire to reject digital!

MICHAEL: Obviously, we’ve all largely been working from home this year, so the main difference has been to the collaborative process. It’s not as easy to bounce ideas off people or just be inspired by those around you. Zoom and Teams calls are great, but sometimes it’s the unplanned interactions, or overhearing a conversation, that sparks the best ideas.

What’s been your favourite coronavirus-inspired design campaign or branding stunt?

MATT: Both McDonald’s and Burger King produced memorable campaigns, however The New York Times editorial design for the ‘Wondering About Social Distancing?’ piece edges it for me.

MICHAEL: I’ve enjoyed the fun stuff that some of the big fast-food chains have been doing, in particular Mother London’s KFC campaign, dropping ‘Finger Lickin’ and labelling it ‘the world’s least appropriate slogan’. Also, Burger King’s campaign encouraging customers to help the industry and eat in McDonald’s, and other rivals of theirs. I enjoy the togetherness the pandemic has bought about.

Are you seeing companies place more emphasis on design and creativity to stand out in a crowded market?

MATT: To a degree. We are certainly seeing a bigger shift in the marketing strategies of B2B companies who are realising that we are all consumers.

MICHAEL: Quite the opposite sadly. It’s pretty easy to do things yourself these days, like make your own website with Squarespace, or design your own social media with Canva. As a result, design is becoming generic and homogenised. Everyone is using the same templates; everybody wants to fit in.

“Design isn’t just about choosing a nice, but arbitrary font and colour. Design is about fleshing out the message of the campaign, adding feeling, colour and purpose.” – Michael Matthews

Is print still an important medium in the design world?

MATT: Even more so, print is an invaluable way of cutting through the digital noise.

MICHAEL: Absolutely. Everybody enjoys a beautifully packaged delivery – digital is transient, print is forever. You can touch, feel and smell print. Print is expensive though, so it can be hard to get buy-in on print projects, but the value and longevity should not be underestimated.

Why is brand identity so important and where can companies get it wrong?

MATT: We are all consumers in one shape or another and we love to buy from people we can relate to. Brands need to tap into this and align themselves with their customers – those who don’t, won’t last long.

MICHAEL: Brand identity and storytelling is everything. Who are you and what do you represent? With so much noise from social media and the internet, you need to stand out and give people something to remember you for.

Do you have any industry pet hates?

MATT: No design brief, and indecisiveness.

MICHAEL: Everybody wants to look a bit like Apple. Apple has really great design, but it’s so successful because its content is better than everyone else’s.

What are your three top tips for ensuring design enhances and elevates a campaign?

MATT: Know your audience, set goals, allow designers to be creative.

MICHAEL: Design isn’t just about choosing a nice, but arbitrary font and colour. Design is about fleshing out the message of the campaign, adding feeling, colour and purpose. Listen and understand the message is the best design tip. What’s the story? What are we trying to say? Then support and underpin that message.

What makes a good creative campaign?

MATT: One that is simple, persuasive and easy to get.

MICHAEL: An original idea coupled with clarity of execution.

With the countdown to Christmas underway, we had to ask what is your favourite Christmas advert of all time?

MATT: I love the 2017 Hovis print ad, Ho Ho Ho (above).

MICHAEL: Holidays are coming… Holidays are coming… It just has such warmth.

And finally, who is your favourite storyteller, designer and artist?

MATT: For me, it has to be Shane Meadows, Josef Müller-Brockmann and Roy Lichtenstein.

MICHAEL: The storyteller I really like is JG Ballard – so many original ideas and such vision. Everything people love about Black Mirror, he was doing in the ’60s.

My favourite designer has to be David Carson – so unique, such a strong point of view, zero compromises, defined an era. Illustrator, there are too many to mention, but Keith Haring’s illustration is so unique and playful.

Do you need to elevate the creativity of your communications campaigns and brand stories? Our creative team can help…

Get in touch