Three Furlough Projects – 100% Free and 100% Fun.

by | Jun 4, 2020

What do graphic design agencies do when being furloughed means they can’t do any paid design work?
They design stuff for free – and for fun!

Project 1 was for Linda’s friend, Leah Gaynor (Fine Jewellery). Leah already had some great ideas for her business branding, but she needed some help to finalise the look, so we helped to pull together the ‘master’ logo, supporting typography, a distinctive colour palette and some image styling suggestions.

Project 2 was for my friend, Elaine, the owner of ‘Villa Matilde’, a gorgeous holiday property in Portugal. Her brief asked for an upmarket, contemporary identity, and our ‘VM’ graphic solution – using two bold blues inspired by the villa’s lovely pool – is paired with minimal, upper-case typography.

But Project 3 was a bit different. We decided we’d pick a pretend project…and write our own pretend brief for it!

But who would we do it for?
– Someone we knew or someone new?
– A small start-up business or a big corporation?
– Someone with local, national or international operations?

And what would it be?
– A brand refresh?
– New brochure concepts?
– Stunning social media graphics?

Endless project possibilities! But we soon narrowed them down and settled on Alnwick Rum. Here’s why…

1. It’s from Alnwick in Northumberland – just a few miles from where I was born and raised.
2. It’s a quality product with a loyal following, but (in our view), updating its presentation could help to boost appeal and drive sales among today’s sophisticated spirits buyers.
3. Their range of three rums (original dark, golden spiced and white) meant we could show differentiation across the products, while retaining the strong ‘family’ feel.
4. Rum has been tipped to be ‘the next gin’, so we could help their company steal a march on the competition.
5. The parent company (Harry Hotspur Holdings) also produce Holy Island Rum, Glen Aln Whisky, Lindisfarne Mead and a range of 11 beers, meaning (if they liked what we’d done), that there could be more lovely design projects down the line.

So we embarked on the ‘project’ using the standard H&H design process.

First, we did our research (into the company, their products and the wider rum market to see what the competition were doing). Interestingly, most rum brands still seem to lag behind well-known gin brands in terms of style and sophistication.

Second, we discussed the project ‘scope’ and agreed we couldn’t successfully update the label designs without also addressing the ‘Alnwick Rum Company’ parent branding.

And third, we produced our designs, exploring options for graphic elements, colourways and typography. At just 1.5 days from start to end, this stage was speedy, but we were both really pleased with the results.

And then in May – once I was ‘unfurloughed’ and allowed to contact people about our creative services again – I thought I’d try contacting the company about our (slightly unusual) actions. “Why not?” I thought. “The designs are done, we’ve loved working on them, and as they say in my native North East…”shy bairns get nowt” (which basically means, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”).

So I wrote them two very nice emails – the first asking if our designs might be of interest, and the second with our designs actually attached. But unfortunately, we heard nothing back from them 🙁

It might be that they’ve been badly affected by COVID-19 and are 100% focussed on staying in business, fulfilling orders, and communicating with their existing clients and contacts. It might be that one of their staff does all their current designs and that they’re 100% loyal to them. Or it might be that genuinely love their current designs more than ours. All totally reasonable reasons. But I guess we’ll never really know??

But Project 3 certainly wasn’t a waste of time:
1. It helped to keep us interested, busy and motivated during our quietest month ever.
2. It’s given us another lovely work example to show other, potential clients in the food & drink industry. 
3. Throwing Linda the creative curveball that became both the branding AND packaging for a small UK spirits producer proved to me (again) what a versatile, talented designer she is, and how lucky I am to have her as my business partner.

We still really like our rum designs, so instead of filing them away and forgetting about them, we decided to write them into this article. Hopefully you like them too? Especially if you’re a spirits maker or marketeer looking for a new creative partner for your own products! 🙂

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Albert Einstein