A Campaign for Colour

Colourtrend is a well-known secret among people who know their paint. They know it’s top-class stuff with a wonderful palette. Yet many don’t know that Colourtrend is a long-established, family-owned Irish brand and takes inspiration for its range from the Irish countryside. Our task was to tell people.

AA:  Eoghan, this is a very visual piece, so as art director I could take a lot of credit, but the reality is this was really your vision from the start, as creative director. Can you talk a little about how you came up with the concept? How did you get from paint to Gerard Manley Hopkins? 

EN: Paint is prosaic stuff, but colour is brilliant and optimistic. The insight we brought was that colour is to the home what poetry is to language. After that, the notion of using a poem flowed easily. I had always loved the vivid and beautiful imagery of 'Pied Beauty' by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It's the perfect length and Fiona Shaw read it so wonderfully.

"Paint is prosaic stuff, but colour is brilliant and optimistic."


AA: Yes, it was great getting Fiona Shaw on board. I love the poem too – I remember it from school of course, but it was one of the ones that always stayed with me. I was excited about the project as soon as you told me the idea. Most of my work is in period filmmaking where all the colours tend to be quite muted (Grand Budapest Hotel excepted) so I jumped at the chance to work on this. 

AA: How did you tackle the radio, it being such a visual product?

EN: John Fanning had helpfully deconstructed the task before we began, breaking the story into parts. Those parts were the brand provenance, i.e. the story of Ronan O'Connor, the founder, who had brought the paint technology back from the States in the 1950s, which lent itself well to audio. Then there is the acknowledged product superiority – people like Colourtrend because it's very good paint. The final part is the fact that Colourtrend draws inspiration from the Irish landscape; or as we expressed it, that Ronan 'didn't just want to put paint in Ireland, he wanted to put Ireland in paint.'

EN: The AV team was really important wasn't it? Finding people with good rapport and the right skills.

AA: Yes – Des Mullen directed, and he really brought our original storyboard to life. He’s also just so easy-going, it was a really relaxed shoot, which is important when you’re dealing with five different species of animals, a small boy, the Irish landscape and the weather. There’s so much nature in the video that Cian de Buitléar was a great choice of DP because he’s such a skilled wildlife photographer. 

Thanks to Rocket for the production, Mutiny Dublin and Silk London for the sound, Rob Hegarty and Outer Limits for the Editing, John Walsh at Symphonic for the music, Fiona Shaw for her incredible voice, Jonathan McGonnell for the beautiful storyboarding, and Colourtrend for being such a trusting and enthusiastic client. 

HAVE YOU LOST YOUR CAT? These biscuits could help.

When we were asked to design some commemorative biscuit packaging for the Irish Design 2015 ‘Liminal’ show in Milan, New York, Dublin and Eindhoven, we looked at some local tall stories… some taller than others. 

AA: Classic confectionery packaging design can really be quite weird and wonderful when you look closely. I never understood why Lyle’s used a dead lion as their emblem – it seems counter-productive to have a picture of a rotting carcass buzzing with flies on your golden syrup tin. But apparently Mr Lyle was a religious man and liked a biblical story about the dead lion in question. Thinking about this made me want to step into the shoes of a local baker, and try to think about what they might want to show on their packaging, rather than thinking solely as a graphic designer commemorating a design exhibition. 

"Stoneybatter is a small community on Dublin’s northside, and it’s also the black hole of cats."


AA: Stoneybatter is a small community of terraced houses on Dublin’s northside, and it’s also the black hole of cats. You can’t walk past any lamppost in the ’Batter without seeing a cat’s face staring back at you from a missing poster. This was my jumping off point – what if we used the biscuit packaging to commemorate all the poor lost cats in the neighbourhood? It felt like something a local baker might want to do, especially if it meant they’d sell an absolute tonne of baked goods in the corner shop. 

EN: As these were going to be shown representing Ireland internationally, we didn’t want to feature Dublin or Stoneybatter alone. So we added Skibbereen in Cork, and Antrim’s Cushendall.

AA: I’d seen a medieval woodcut of an enormous fish being cut open, and inside it were hundreds of other fish. It was obviously an exaggeration – Chinese whispers had turned a mediocre story into a great story. Eoghan, you came up with the name the Skinch of Inch, which immediately felt familiar even though it was entirely made up. Could there really have once been an infamous sea creature in Skibbereen called the Skinch? Sounds plausible! 

EN: It felt right to have fun with the language so the stories themselves have little verbal Easter eggs in them, like in video games and computer programs.

"It felt right to have fun with the language so the stories themselves have little verbal Easter eggs in them."

AA: We got Alan Lambert on board to illustrate our ideas, and one of the things that I really appreciated him bringing to the table was his suggestion of exaggerating these tales even further. He turned ten burly men in the Cushendall story in to an entire village – the school teachers, the kids, even the local geese were out tugging on the rope, apparently pulling down an old tree. It was exactly the angle we were coming from – tall stories getting taller. 

EN: The Cushendall tale is based on a real story that happened to a friend of mine… hope she doesn’t mind being immortalised in a biscuit package.

AA: When we presented the ideas to Design Ireland we sensed a little hesitancy there. I think they had been expecting something less conceptual? They were worried that people just wouldn’t get where we were coming from – and so The Daily Helicopter was launched. It would be the front page of a local newspaper wrapped around the biscuits that would expand on all the stories we were telling visually.

AA: Eoghan, you had to write six newspaper articles, 15 angry letters to the editor, and ten lost cat small ads over one weekend, but I think it was worth it in the end…

EN: Yes. Is it god or the devil that’s in the detail? Can never remember. Anyway, It’s my dream that someday the letters will be read by someone, anyone, and a book deal will follow. The Daily Helicopter could really take off.

The biscuits, baked by Seymour’s of Cork, are on display at ID2015’s ‘Liminal’ in Dublin Castle until December 30th. Illustrations by Alan Lambert


In April 2015, we won a pitch to produce a logo and advertising campaign for Fáilte Ireland (the Irish Tourist Board) promoting Dublin as a holiday destination – and positioning it as a city that sits between the mountains and the sea. The campaign has run in both London and Dublin and is primed for roll-out in other markets.

AA: Eoghan, you're a Dubliner through and through – you were born here and you've lived and worked here in advertising all your life. How did it feel to pitch for the task of rebranding your home? 

EN: It was intimidating, but I've always felt very connected to my native city and love to see it through the eyes of others. Dublin has seen so many changes over the years and in some ways is a more exhilarating and varied place today than ever. But Dubliners are a tough audience and they need to get behind this too, so I knew that whatever we did would have to ring true.

"The logo was drawn to look as if it wouldn't be out of place painted on the side of a building somewhere in the city"


AA: Yes, when I started work on the design one of my priorities was to not do anything that felt too corporate or branded – it was important that the logo felt like a holiday, not a product. I also wanted to draw it by hand – like it wouldn't be out of place painted up on the side of a building somewhere in the city:

Early sketch of the logo – before the seagulls became swifts.

Early sketch of the logo – before the seagulls became swifts.

AA: I remember when we sat down to talk about the project, you'd already been working on the line, 'A Breath of Fresh Air', for some time. I immediately took to it – I could see how it would work in both its literal and more philosophical meanings, and I knew we'd be able to have fun visualising it. Were you as confident as I was? 

EN: I never allow myself to be too confident as there are often hidden hurdles, especially in a competitive tender. A breakthrough in getting to the line was focussing on conveying the promise of Dublin equally to the two targets outlined in the brief: both the 'Culturally Curious' and the 'Social Energisers'. Some might come here for kayaking or hill-walking and others for museums, books and pubs, but they all want to be refreshed and to find somewhere different — somewhere that's a breath of fresh air. Other lines fell short. But as with any line you have to let it bounce around your head for days to see if it feels right. And as someone who has made Dublin her home, you are an excellent sounding board.

AA: Yes, for me it was fun designing the logo from an outsider's perspective, as well as someone who's familiar with the city. I really wanted to create something that drew from Dublin's historical graphic language. I find we're quick here to dismiss anything that feels even vaguely like the past sometimes, but working in period filmmaking has made me more aware of how modern some of those antiquities can feel. I sketched some ancient Celtic letterforms, as well as looking at Georgian calligraphy. Actually, that big swoopy initial D was stolen almost directly from 19th century calligraphic lettering:

AA: The movement in the letterform helped illustrate the theme of air and space. We'd already been looking at birds to symbolise this and found they complemented each other. Swifts are summer visitors to Dublin – they migrate here every year, which seemed fitting to the idea of the logo looking like a holiday. Their numbers are actually in decline in lots of European cities, but they like building their nests in our Georgian architecture, apparently. 

"Swifts are summer visitors to Dublin, which seemed fitting to the idea of a logo that looked like a holiday."


EN: We'd started with seagulls, but of course they're not everyone's favourite – they're at the pigeon end of the scale, 'flying rodents'. We quickly went from Jonathan Livingstone Seagull to Jonathan Swift. 

AA: The campaign to launch the logo—the idea being that Dublin sits right between the mountains and the sea—is running in London and Dublin. The London campaign promotes tourism to Dublin, of course, but the Dublin campaign was designed to introduce these thoughts to locals... that tough bunch who were first outlined in the brief. When you started writing the campaign the tone of voice was something we considered very carefully, wasn't it? 

"Dublin has a voice that doesn't take itself too seriously. The campaign had to reflect some of Dublin's subversive side."


EN: Yes – Dublin has a voice that is informal and friendly and doesn't take itself too seriously. I read recently the English comedian Bill Bailey saying of Dublin he had never played a room with so many brilliant hecklers. Heckling, slagging, self-deprecation, irreverence, curiosity, playfulness – the campaign had to reflect some of Dublin's subversive side:

Above: Posters for the Dublin campaign. Below: Straplines for the inside of the Luas carriages

Above: Posters for the Dublin campaign. Below: Straplines for the inside of the Luas carriages

EN: We defined the tone of voice as Colloquial, Distinctive, Contemporary and Upbeat. Colloquial is the most important. For the London campaign we had to consider what Londoners expect of Dublin and what was liked about us, or at least found distinctive. As we're talking to neighbours to whom Dubliners if not Dublin are familiar, it's so much better to play to our strengths and be genuine.

Selected pieces from the campaign currently running in London.

Selected pieces from the campaign currently running in London.

AA: You'll be rewriting this campaign for France and Germany too, eventually...

EN: Yes, but not everything translates literally of course. I lived in Toulouse once and discovered that while here we would describe ourselves as so hungry we could 'eat a horse' the Southern French would say they could 'eat a priest'. So in a campaign with a colloquial voice, it's much better to transcreate and find a parallel figure of speech in the local language.