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Be More Pirate: Sam Conniff Allende on how, by breaking rules, we can rebuild the creative landscape

Bemorepirate-publication-itsnicethat

The founder of Don’t Panic and multi-award-winning youth marketing agency Livity Sam Conniff Allende has always believed in doing business a bit differently. Here, in the run up to his talk at Nicer Tuesdays later this month, he tells us why, as inequality rises, we all need to re-learn how to break the rules.

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a pirate.

A pirate state of mind has been the underlying ethos of the last twenty years of my creative career founding and running Don’t Panic and then Livity. And now it’s informing my message to creatives everywhere. It also partly explains the fact that I’ve just published a book called Be More Pirate.

I believe in pirates, I believe in their principles, I believe in their manifesto, and I believe that now more than ever, you and me both need some new rules when it comes to doing things differently.

Are you, like me, beginning to realise that the idea that Technology Will Save Us is looking like an increasingly undercooked and oversold promise?

As incomes fall and inequality rises. As the march of the machines threatens mass redundancy, and a backdrop of almost guaranteed ecological disaster can’t seem to wean us off our addiction to consumerism, the hard truth is that no one is coming to save you. Except maybe you.

Take one look at our current leadership, and the alternative, and tell me you disagree. The leadership we need now is within. We have to decide whether we’re part of the problem or part of the solution. And when I say we, I mean you. The creative industries, and advertising and marketing in particular has to choose whether it wants to be the signature on humanity’s suicide note, or part of its wake-up call.

That’s why I want to talk about rule-breaking. History tells us time and again that yesterday’s rebels and rule-breakers become today’s heroes and tomorrow’s legends. At the same time, history often judges badly those who followed orders and played by the rules.

So, for people living in historic times, do you feel confident that you will do what’s required when it’s your time right to not do what you’re told? Will you flinch when it’s the responsible thing to break the rules and risk everything?

Be More Pirate is my first book and it was published last week, the same week Livity turned 17, and like Don’t Panic before it, I’ve left the agency in far better hands than mine to manage, as I embark on an even more radical adventure, than those to pretty radical endeavours.

And here I am, back once again (like the reengage master) and one-man-band trying to take on the world, and win. Because after nearly two decades at the helm of two influential youth-led marketing agencies, I am tired of witnessing young people being patronised by creative businesses, brands and society and not offered what they increasingly seem ready for: a more decisive stake in determining their own future.

That’s why I want to talk about pirates. What’s so profound and potent about the 18th Century millennials aka the Golden Age Pirates who outwitted the Navy from approximately 1690 to 1725, is that they didn’t just break rules in purposeless anarchy, they fundamentally rewrote them. They didn’t just reject a society, they re-imagined it; and they didn’t just challenge the status quo, they changed everyfuckingthing.

I know most of us have a mental image of pirates and more often than not it’s informed by Hollywood, but I’d argue that the troublesome true history of pirates, suppressed at the time by the establishment they threatened, puts them alongside the working class heroes like the Levellers or perhaps even pioneers of civil rights like the Suffragettes in their fight for fairness and equality. Bold claims I know, but I think it’s time to look further back for our lessons. We’re increasingly too wedded to unproven short-term models. For all the unicorns galloping out of Silicon Valley, there’s a lot of horse shit behind the scenes. And I for one, think we need more than the uberisation of everything as the proposed future model of anything. Dropping a vowel from your name, doesn’t make you fit for the future, but knowing your history could.

So come on an adventure with me, and 300 years ago you find a a discontented Gen Z of the early 1700’s who were fed up with the inability of a self-serving establishment to provide a decent wage, decent working conditions, or any sense of hope in the future. Their response was to take power into their own hands.

The lessons for everyone facing disruption are pretty profound, but they come into especially sharp focus for our industry, as these were, after all the great-great-grandfathers of global branding. Not Coca-Cola as many think, but the Skull and Crossbones 150 years earlier, a deliberate meme designed go viral and maximise profit and contrary to popular opinion, to reduce violence. There’s much more of Blackbeards rules of branding in the book, but now word counts and deadlines loom.

Talking of deadlines, this piece is due to be published one week on from the books launch and as things stand, the rebellion is in full flight. Be More Pirate launched as a Best Seller on Amazon in multiple business categories and is rising slowly, with no mainstream media recognition but a growing (and humbling) amount of support on social.

But far, far more important than sales, is the rebellion rate. I’ve lost track of the number of the rebellious responses I’ve received so far, from the resignations it’s triggered to a young woman who is using pirate principles to run a massive campaign to get her friend released from illegal detention by the Home Office.

This book has touched a nerve, across all walks of life, but it’s most precise message is for the audience it’s inspiration is drawn from, young creatives with world changing ambitions, so I sincerely hope this has found you. Because deep down I think you know as well as I do the biggest mistake we could both make is assuming that the way things have always been is the way they still have to be.

Claire-matthews-itsnicethat-list Work / Opinion Environmental Activism: Why We Need To Shake Up the Visual

Graphic designer Claire Matthews founded independent campaign group Clean Air Now alongside Vasilisa Forbes in 2016. Clean Air Now advocate for positive environmental change in London and across the UK, through billboards, subverts, videos and street art placement.

Falmouth-university-opinion-itsnicethat-list Sponsored / Opinion What's the point of an MA in design anyway?

Dr. Robyn Cook is the course coordinator for the MA Communication Design at Falmouth University. After almost ten years of working in the creative industries as a designer and art director (TBH Disturbance, Ogilvy, Ogilvy Action) she moved into academia, teaching at both postgraduate and undergraduate levels at the University of Johannesburg and now Falmouth University. Here, Robyn discusses why students should (or potentially shouldn’t) study a master’s in design.

Smorgasbord-wihayo-soju-dylan-griffith-alcohol-packaging-graphic-design-itsnicethat-illustration-for-brand-film-list Work / Opinion Looking east: how Smörgåsbord designed a soju brand to work in Europe and Asia alike

Earlier this month, Coca-Cola announced it would produce its first ever alcoholic drink, an alco-pop to be launched solely in Japan. The idea is to tap into the lucrative market for chu-hi, canned fizzy drinks given a kick with a local spirit called shochu. The world’s largest soft drinks company making its move into this sector is significant, and symbolic of many other western brands trying their luck in the Asian alcohol world where huge brands such as Asahi, Kirin and Suntory already have a presence. But how do you design the branding and packaging for a product aimed at a firmly established market on the other side of the world, as well as back home? Here to enlighten us is Dylan Griffith, co-founder of Cardiff and Amsterdam-based design studio Smörgåsbord, which recently collaborated on the creation of the first European-made soju, Wihayo.

Pregnant_in_the_creative_industry_opinion_international_womens_day_itsnicethat2 Work / International Women's Day What I learned, and worried about, as a pregnant woman in the creative industry

I was never the type of woman to daydream about pushing around a pram. I guess I assumed I would one day, but that vision was in the back of my mind, far overshadowed by ambitions for my career. Since I graduated nearly ten years ago, my priority had been work – I was lucky to have very supportive parents and friends who believed, probably more than me sometimes, that I could be successful. I feel good about where I am now, as news editor at It’s Nice That. I had to fight some pretty awful bosses along the way, one who described me as having “sharp elbows” (if I were a guy that would translate as “ambitious” but that’s a whole other subject); another with an approach to gender equality like that of Sterling Cooper. But it made me tough and I gained respect. Until I got to my late 20s and the comments started coming. Subtle, seemingly harmless jokey comments from family, friends and colleagues that most women around 30 in long-term relationships would recognise. It’s baby time. If you don’t have your usual G&T at the pub, eyes flicker with gleeful suspicion. People outrightly ask you if you want to have kids, like it’s not a hugely personal and weighted life decision that will change everything.

List Features / International Women's Day “We need everyone to wake up.” Google’s Tea Uglow on intersectionality in the creative industries

Tea Uglow is the creative director at Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney. She works with both cultural and creative organisations across the globe exploring the space between technology and the arts and what can happen when they intersect. Her impressive output spans everything from responsive and reactive reading interfaces to immersive, 360-degree performances. She is also a transgender woman. To celebrate International Women’s Day, It’s Nice That got in touch with Tea to find out her opinions on representation and intersectionality within the creative industries.

Listvansnew Work / Illustration A return to the satirical surrealism of illustrator Alex Gamsu Jenkins

Since we last spoke to illustrator Alex Gamsu Jenkins two years ago, his work has ramped up a gear. Yes, the Camberwell grad still renders satire in grainy newsprint-like scenes. And Lordy, his work is still pretty gory. But the scale of his pieces has expanded to create more involved, more surreal narratives where the gag isn’t always obvious at first sight. You feel compelled to give his gruesome scenes a second take.

Pouya-ahmadi-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication Pouya Ahmadi’s publication Amalgam is “a somewhat contradictory situation”

Amalgam is an ad-hoc transdisciplinary journal that explores the intersection of type, language and the visual arts: a perfect combination of subjects for anyone who, like us, obsesses over design and typography. With a graphically bold cover and equally intriguing name, Amalgam is the latest project from Swiss graphic designer Pouya Ahmadi.

Seungwhankim-illustration-itsnicethat-08 Work / Illustration Seungwhan Kim's sweet illustrations delve into inner emotions

Over in Seoul illustrator Seungwhan Kim sweetly illustrates the “paradoxical situations that we face in everyday life,” he tells It’s Nice That. Both a little strange but also relatable, Seungwhan’s illustration style picks up on life’s double-sided contradictions implying them in his work. He does this by noticing and drawing inner emotions, “jealousy, inferiority and dissatisfaction” for instance, as the illustrator finds “behaviours and situations associated with such emotions intriguing”.

Listgen_image_01 Work / Graphic Design Wolff Olins on the tech-fuelled future of the humancentric rebrand

As many companies rebrand in a way that increasingly seems generic and homogenous, the way we consider branding needs to change, argues Chris Moody, chief design officer at brand consultancy Wolff Olins. Chris suggests that we have come to a pivot point where virtual reality, augmented reality and voice-activation are changing the way we define brand presence. A brand identity must now be an ‘intelligent identity’, that uses responsive assets, new platforms and technologies to create a conversation on a human level, and at scale.

2001-a-space-odyssesy-film-itsnicethat-list Features / Film "Something bold, something pure" – the 50-year long legacy of 2001: A Space Odyssey

When 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered on 10 May 1968 – 50 years ago today – it somehow captured the imagination of its viewers: an audience who was yet to experience footage of the moon landing over a year later. Packed full of lengthy sequences and free from dialogue or even sound, its imagery, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is tranquil to the point of being static at times. This combined with its understandably puzzling ending meant the film received mixed reviews from critics upon its release. Despite this, it quickly garnered a ferocious cult following and became the highest grossing film of that year: the only Kubrick motion picture to hold this status.

01-list-img-template-margins-2-up Work / Publication Nataal’s debut print magazine captures the creative energy of Africa and its diaspora

“This is a magazine for anyone who wants to engage with, be inspired by or learn about the abundant energy coming from visual arts, fashion and cultural communities inspired by the spirit of Africa,” says Helen Jennings, the editorial director of Nataal. Established as a digital platform in 2015 and growing to include exhibitions and now its debut print magazine, the Afrocentric showcase champions the artists who are shaping new global narratives around the continent, via fashion shoots, long-form writing and visual essays.

Buffalo_replacement Work / Publication Buffalo Zine are back with issue 7 and it’s a fashion fiesta

Independent print might be thriving, but there are fewer magazines we look forward to more than the eternally shapeshifting Buffalo Zine. With every issue comes a complete redesign, the magazine bowing deferentiently to the theme that dictates it’s format. With past issues masquerading as shopping catalogues, home and interiors magazines and tabloid newspapers, nothing is quite what it seems.

Scamp-publication-itsnicethat-3list Work / Publication Scamp magazine is a must-have item for any “art and fashion shiterati” (NSFW)

In the late 1950s, a Playboy-aspirant magazine was established that delved deep into life’s big enigmas like “A Short History of Undress” and “How to Make it Big in Café Society”. Despite its undeniable contribution to literary culture, the publication was sadly discontinued shortly after its launch. The magazine’s influence, however, lives on in the form of the brilliantly hilarious and wonderfully tacky modern-day Scamp, which has just seen the release of its second issue. Run by Oskar Oprey, Jam Steward and John William, Scamp is a must-have item for any “art and fashion shiterati”.

Studiodumbar-graphicdesign-itsnicethat-1list Work / Graphic Design Studio Dumbar on its dynamic identity for youth foundation Jeugdfonds

The legendary Rotterdam-based Studio Dumbar is known for some of the most iconic identities since its establishment in 1977. Its creative team has designed some of the Holland’s most recognisable visual identities, including rebrands for the Dutch railway systems, the Dutch government, Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery and the budget airline Transavia. The studio can now add another impressive project to its list of achievements: the dynamic and vibrant work for children’s cultural institutions Jeugdsportfonds – Youth Sport Foundation – and Jeugdcultuurfonds – Youth Culture Foundation.

List4 Work / Animation Jun Seo Hahm’s animated characters straddle the terrifying line of cute and icky

In French there’s the term ‘jolie laide’, or pretty-ugly, to describe a unconventional hottie whose attractiveness hinges on a crooked nose or a scraggle of teeth. In Japan the phenomenon of kimo-kawaii (cute-gross) illustration has ballooned in popularity in recent years, with even Sanrio, the creator of kitsch queen Hello Kitty, getting in on the creepy character game (see Kirimi-chan, an anthropomorphic salmon steak). There’s something about human nature that means this intersection between sweet and weird, sexy and repulsive, really gets under our skin. And it’s at this oh-so-freaky juncture that the work of animator Jun Seo Hahm sits, waiting to lick your hand affectionately – or bite off all your digits.

Chantal-jahchan-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication Chantal Jahchan explores the Arabic type design landscape and concepts of modernity in En Route

“I was born in Rabieh, Lebanon and came to the US when I was five years old,” New York-based graphic designer Chantal Jahchan tells It’s Nice That. “Ever since then, I have been interested in the ways that language can be both a barrier and a tool for communication.” In a project that fully embodies this experience, Chantal explores what “modernity” might mean for Lebanon, specifically through a typographic and linguist lens in her publication En Route.

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We have been following Louie Banks for some time now; partly because of his impossibly cute snaps of pets Babs and Pig but, more so, because of his endless turnover of honest, perceptive and arresting portraits. Louie has worked with the likes of iD, Vogue Italia and Love magazine and photographed legendary club icons like Amanda Lepore, fashion it-girls like Aweng Chuol, not to mention half of London’s underground scene.

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“Many Brutalist buildings have the sense of something dark, sometimes negative in meaning,” says London-based motion graphics designer Peter Tomaszewicz as he chats to It’s Nice That about his new animation States of Matter. “I wanted to distort Brutalism in such way that it would provide a feel of a dystopian, imaginary scenery but to add in more humour and playfulness.”

Department-of-new-realities-bookshelf-itsnicethat-list-alt Regulars / Bookshelf A 3D-rendered Bookshelf from Wieden and Kennedy's Department of New Realities

If you’re a regular reader of It’s Nice That, we’re sure you’re familiar with the advertising powerhouse Wieden and Kennedy (W+K). Founded by Dan Wieden and David Kennedy, the agency now has offices in Portland, London, New York City, São Paulo, Delhi, Shanghai, Tokyo and Amsterdam, the last of which is home to The Department of New Realities (DPTNR) which has curated the week’s (3D-rendered) Bookshelf for you to drool over.

Nicer-tuesdays-may-launch-list Regulars / Nicer Tuesdays Get tickets now for May’s Nicer Tuesdays

This month at Nicer Tuesdays on 29 May, we’ll be hearing about the graphic design for Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, plus brilliantly odd illustration, inspiring publication design and how to Be More Pirate in our work and life. Get tickets now to hear from Erica Dorn, Sam Conniff, Kyle Platts and Offshore Studio at Oval Space.
If you stopped to admire the incredible graphic details in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, you were most likely admiring the work of Erica Dorn. As the lead graphic designer on the film, Erica was responsible for bringing together everything from the Japanese woodblock-inspired artworks to printed documents, product packaging and signage, which added beautifully intricate detail to the dystopian future world Anderson was creating for his canine stars. Erica will be showcasing her research, references, sketches, final pieces and behind the scenes snippets from the project.There’s no mistaking the handiwork of illustrator and animation director Kyle Platts. Vivid and cartoonish compositions filled with strange, wobbly characters, their ballooned foreheads in profile bearing enlarged eyes, are his forte, and a long-time favourite of the It’s Nice That team. He’ll be joining us to share insights to his creative process, particularly for recent projects for the likes of Vice, Bloomberg, Zeit Leo and GQ_.In past lives, Sam Conniff was the founder of creative network Livity and media platform Don’t Panic, but recently he’s gone rogue with a new mission: to encourage everyone to "_Be More Pirate.":https://www.bemorepirate.com/ Born from research into the radical strategies of Golden Age pirates, his new ethos and book of the same name (with an added explanatory strapline “Or How to Take On The World And Win”) adapts these strategies for 21st Century work and life, and aligns them with modern day innovators or “rebels” like Elon Musk and Malala Yousafzai.Zurich-based graphic design studio Offshore is one of It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch 2018 and with good reason. Founders Christoph Miler and Isabel Seiffert are behind the design of Migrant Journal, for which the duo created a bespoke typeface and visually arresting design. Politically conscious, sensitive and striking all at the same time, it sums up the designers’ capability way beyond their years. They’ll be telling us more about their recent work, and the aesthetic combination of Swiss design sensibilities and international influences that makes their work truly distinctive.

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