Jinny's Tonic No. 5
The Importance of Physicality and Idiosyncrasy in a Digital Age
Thursday 21st February 2019
Photos courtesy of Mark Paton and Here Design
Jinny’s Tonic No. 5 - Mark Paton on Visual Ecologies: The Importance of Physicality and Idiosyncrasy in a Digital Age
Mark is a graphic designer and one of the founders of Here Design. Over the last twelve years he and his partners have built a studio that is dedicated to the craft of good design by integrating thinking, writing, designing and making. The structure of the studio has grown organically to support the needs of their clients, and to allow them to act as a design partner from the inception of an idea to the production of the ultimate physical expression.
Here Design work across an unusually wide range of project types. They have created restaurant identities for the likes of Palomar, Morito and Hide; designed cookbooks such as Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Simple’; redesigned international brands such as Bacardí, and created packaging for some of the world’s rarest Single Malt whiskies. Recently Mark had the pleasure of working with Jinny on her book The Thoughtful Gardener and alongside Jinny on the visual identity for The Fife Arms hotel in Braemar, the latest venture of dynamic art duo Iwan and Manuela Wirth.
Mark began by explaining how Here Design has grown to a team of 40 people. There was no initial masterplan for the business, it has grown organically, but along the journey there have been recurrent themes. Tonight was to be united by Scotland and whisky.
There were no PowerPoint presentations or screens in use this evening. Instead, Mark brought a selection of objects for us to look through and discuss. We discussed the need for physicality; how people have an intuitive desire for tactile things. Designing a product well relies on using one’s senses. Not only how does something look, but how does it feel? What does it smell like?.
Mark initially studied packaging design but became interested in applying this framework to “wrapping up” an offer or a service. We learnt about his interest in thinking three-dimensionally, and the question was posed “what does your mind go through when you’re experiencing a piece of design?”.
Mark’s approach to design is innately human. He described that even when working with a marketing department, they are still people, and the designer’s role is to look for their truth. To be a graphic designer is to be sympathetic to your client, and listen.
‘Blanding’ and Bad Taste
We discussed the impact of modernism, and how it imparted a number of rules, both good and bad. We spoke about how simplicity does make information and typography easier to understand, particularly when design spans platforms, but that branding can become ‘blanding’ when everyone is sourcing inspiration from the same pool. Mark told us of a career-defining observation; that there are “moments in design where correctness is not right”.
We spoke about the importance of finding inspiration from more physical, unique sources rather than Google Images and Pinterest. Mark showed us an unusual collection of Scottish Victorian invoices he’d bought at Kemptown Market, which had coincided with being introduced to renowned gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth by Jinny.
For The Fife Arms’ brand identity, Here Design enjoyed a playful approach to High Victoriana, consciously experimenting with “bad taste” and “ugly” typefaces.
We discussed how designing a brand’s identity can spill over to product design, interior design and even architecture. Here Design sourced boiled egg scissors as part of their design package. Mark posed the question “how do you interact with the hotel in a way that is memorable?”. The scissors, along with the solid bronze Scottish freshwater mussel room keyrings become design touchpoints for the hotel. Tactile and unique.
We learnt about the wider implications of The Fife Arms reopening in the village of Braemar, Aberdeenshire, and how design can play a vital part in the development of jobs and opportunities.
Iwan and Manuela engaged with the local community on a human level, and The Fife Arms’ manager lived in the village for two years before the hotel opened. Mark told us how an extra third of population was being introduced to Braemar with the reopening of the hotel, so it was vital that the introduction was sensitive, and that the identity reflected local and regional nuances.
We were also treated to tales of craft and human relationships through whisky. Here Design were asked to design the packaging of Balvenie’s extremely rare 50-year-old single malt whisky, created to celebrate Malt Master David Stewart’s fifty year career with the distillery.
Mark emphasised the craft of making whisky by working closely with Sam, a former scientist turned cabinet maker based in Scotland. The packaging, which we all touched, smelt and passed around, is a sculptural wooden cylinder crafted from 49 slices of native Scottish timbers, with the 50th ring made of brass and engraved with the story of the Malt Master. As with tree rings, these sculpted rings denote the passing of time. “Packaging” feels too insignificant a word for this thoughtfully crafted object.
We learnt of Mark and Sam’s working relationship, and how this young cabinet maker retrained to work with wood following a dramatic climbing accident. Mark told us that because of the ongoing commission, Sam has relocated to live closer to the Balvenie distillery, and his parents now work there too. Design has the power to create opportunities and support our heritage crafts.