Interview Series : In the studio and on the road with our chief creative officer

In the studio and on the road with our chief creative officer

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What drives the processes, inspiration and goals of one of Asia’s prominent independent brand consultancies and what’s behind their unique approach of strategic design and branding.  With a number of high profile property and lifestyle brands in Indonesia, Australia and Singapore delivered by ADELAHAYE Strategic Branding we speak to some of our Creative firepower and learn what it is that motivates, drives and ultimately leads to this catalogue of success.

London to Asia working through a host of industries, disciplines and clients Alex de la Haye, Creative Director and Founder of ADELAHAYE brings over 15 years of experience to the table.  An extensive knowledge of design, media and integrated branding has helped him launch, reposition, and cultivate hundreds of brands around the world for clients such as Capitaland, SetiaGroup, Google, Damiani, Nike, Christian LaCroix and many more. 

His expertise and hands on management technique originates the dark arts of graphic design, typography, photography and digital technology to create comprehensive creative environments for Adelahaye’s team and clients.

How do you gain inspiration for your work

All my main inspiration would be from travel and witnessing the world around me, I also try to maintain an active lifestyle through sports such as snowboarding hiking and trekking, I am also keen runner and find that when you’re focusing on achieving a goal it is often a lot easier to keep a clear and open-mind.   Travel is really essential, you cannot be effective at communication if you are not out their experiencing cultures, speaking to people, eating the food and embracing it full on.   I try and stay off the net for inspiration, seldom watch TV and movies and avoid following too much Industry press, I am more interested in the current affairs of the globe, politics and business than I am following design per say, it’s too tailored and you’re not going to learn a lot unless you a techie or a mac monkey.

Who is one of your favourite artists or designers, and how have they influenced a project you’ve worked on while at ADELAHAYE or the field?

I do not have any particular artist that I would say are my favourite however I enjoy classical and modern architecture,  galleries, performances and pretty much any kind of cultural expression.  I am always on the lookout for artists and traces that can push the boundaries of what is deemed cool or the norm especially those that can do so with a clean direct and considered application. 

We recently worked with a top Australian photographer Max Doyle for a project with our sister company Encore in Melbourne and watching him work was inspiring just through looking at how he gauged and captured his shots both outside and inside the studio.  I also like seeing a lot of the influences and creatives work on Instagram and social media now that seems to be where the vanguard of creativity is going and I like the chaos around it.

How do you provide conditions that allow creativity to flourish in your studio?

I am quite a big believer in the philosophy of you have it or you don’t and therefore would say that the only conditions that we set is that you are never wrong here and we try to create an environment that promotes discussion and critical analysis internally as much as possible. 

I am not a big believer in the whole Google office concept I prefer to stick to more a traditional studio environment and then the pub after for a couple of jars with the team, I would say though it is important to allow more work remotely and from home in line with the changing trends of peoples work life balance and enhance capabilities of the digital age. 

Coming from a background graphic design where we were still taught colour separations and typesetting I am also a strong believer in learning your trade and therefore being as competent as possible at your core strengths be it graphics, illustration, art direction or digital and using those skills to best communicate your ideas from start to finish. 

I also believe that as creative you should not be too precious with your ideas I generally encourage people to present more and then eliminate through discussion and explore other parts if required, if anything practice makes perfect. 

 How do you know when you or your team is on its way to creating something mind-blowing?

I think everyone gets the feeling of energy and inspiration the crucial thing though is insuring that it is communicated to the client and that the process is as smooth as possible as is nothing worse than good work being rejected.  

That said is the creative director’s role and the art director along with the account director is to ensure that the brief is translated well and that the client is on-side as much as possible and let’s not forget we are not creating work for the Turner prize at the end of the day is commercial creative environment but that don’t mean it has to be boring.  On the most part we have very good relationships with our clients which is a testimony to the culture we instil.

What’s one area of creative branding or design that you would like to explore at ADELAHAYE?

We would like to look more into content production specifically with regards to photographic and video work.   Although I have experience from working at Vice Media and ADELAHAYE it’s fairly concentrated at the moment on brand strategy and brand design along with some user interface and digital work.  

I am not a big believer in jack of all trades and therefore we have avoided going to heavily into social and digital as a technical skill set however we are very competent at designing and directing campaigns for digital and social media.   I think John Hegarty of BBH said something like don’t get too wrapped up in media and instead focus on process and the idea, I would add to this and say first focus on your audience, end user and the way that today digests information, what we should do as creatives is enhanced and challenge that osmotic process.

How do you maintain creative vision while keeping your client involved and sold into the process or idea?  What do you do when a client disagrees with what you consider the best solution?

I think if you’re not getting the client involved and there is discourse on the creative process then you’re not doing your job and failing at the very thing you are commissioned to do,  at the end of the day good account team and a good creative team should be able to keep the client on side and at the end of the day there is much more insight you can gain from them to create a better outcome.  Its important to get ownership from the client and the team,  if this breaks down its essentially up to the CD to take responsibility as its ultimately his name on the door and his team.

I think it is also worth noting that in most cases the client has picked you above other agencies so it is sometimes worth reminding them of that in a pragmatic fashion.

When given with a new project, where do you start? Do you have a standard process that you use?

We start at the beginning look at the problem and look at the end user and the competition.   We have a fairly standard process which is reflected in most branding agencies where we deviate is that we probably take a more analytical and research driven approach to the strategy and we also try and remain very lean which allows us to be more flexible while working on a project or multiples.

How do you define success? Is it notoriety within design circles, ROI for our clients, influencing trends, or something else altogether.

I think ultimately our success is measured on the brand or products success but of course it is nice to attain notoriety for the right reasons as it is also nice to be plagiarised!

Do you have any personal or side projects you’re passionate about? If so, what are they? Do they impact your work at ADELAHAYE, or vice versa?

I very much enjoy photography and work on a number of small fashion projects, garment production and also have an active interest in some restaurant projects.  Whiskey distillery in Japan coming soon!

Now that design press and commentators are more vocal than ever, how do you cope with loud and negative reviews?

We haven’t received a great deal of press, like I said earlier we don’t really follow the design press too much and as long as they are not the ones paying our bills I won’t be worrying too much about them.  As they say about press officers if you can’t hack journalism be a press officer or work in PR.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers, strategists or creatives looking to join a company like ADELAHAYE?

Have a well presented portfolio in a standard format which focuses heavily on the work, also don’t try and be too creative with your resume and trying get face time with one of the senior creatives and make a good impression.  

My own journey leads me to believe that while in college or out of work it is very beneficial to get as much work experience as possible, this is quite common in the occidental world but less so in Asia on the most part, that said we’ll have had some great interns here.  
For me I like creatives that happy to get out of the studio so when interviewing I really look for someone that is presentable and personable that we can easily sit down in front of a client and they can represent the agency and hold their own.

Is there anything else you would like to add or share?

When possible try and use your skills to assist in social, environmental or other causes that you feel passionate about and that may not be able to render your services otherwise.  We’ve done some work for a number of well deserving charities and causes,  it feels good and helps them out plus always good to bank some kharma.