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Powerhouse?

FedEx, BP, Pizza Hut, H & R Block.

Just some of the most recognized brands in the world, maybe not the whole world, but pretty close. Here is my question, what exactly is the deal with Landor Associates? I don’t have many opinions, except that I think their work is really good, and I would like to know more about what goes on in this place. Why or how do they get these clients? Do you think they are good? How much do clients pay for an identity? ok, nobody has to answer that one.

I’m just curious.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 1242 FILED UNDER Designer/Design Firm Profile
PUBLISHED ON Sep.22.2002 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
joktu’s comment is:

$850,000 for a typical (print) identity system. Branding agencies like Landor don't typically stop there. They get the client to splurge on broadcast and web applications for their brandmarks. An account will generally fetch the agency an average of $5 - 3 million. 20% of that goes back to IPG (Interpublic Group of Companies), their parent company.

As for their clientele, it's a result of a lucrative network of industry affiliations through IPG who maintains other landor-like franchise.

I don't think there is anything remarkable about their work. I have personally witnessed their designers take rejected concepts and recycle it for another client.

If you are truly passionate about your craft and believe in the virtues of design, my advice (and experience) is to shun profit-driven, bureaucratic agencies like Landor. They are typically headed by individuals who do not hail from design backgrounds and have no qualms about not kerning a ´┐ŻY’ and a period.

What follows is an unofficial organizational structure that values project directors and account executives over designers. In view of this, which profession do you wager will be the first to get the axe when profits are in the red? These are truly miserable places to nurture a career in design.

On Sep.22.2002 at 10:53 PM
Christopher May’s comment is:

Insightful comment from an insightful Nguy ;-)

... and the recycling bit is soooo true.

On Sep.23.2002 at 08:44 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>These are truly miserable places to nurture a career in design.

See? this is why I asked. I have always been curious about Landor. You can always expect designers to be at the bottom of the food chain in big agencies like that.

>I don't think there is anything remarkable about their work.

This is just a matter of personal opinions. I'll agree that most of the work is not interesting at all. I think the logo for BP is good, what they did for H & R block is pretty good to. The pizza Hut logo is horrible, but it fits the market. This is one of my favorite identities that they have done, I don't know... it might just be the chicken that gets to me.

>If you are truly passionate about your craft and believe in the virtues of design, my advice (and experience) is to shun profit-driven, bureaucratic agencies like Landor.

As much as I would like to shun these agencies, they are a big part of Graphic Design whether we like it or not. The work they do is the one that most common folk (not graphic designers is what I mean) see and interact with, and that's the notion they have of design.

On Sep.23.2002 at 09:03 AM
Jon’s comment is:

Nothing like a post about one's former employer to get your attention. Over my 5 years there, I held various design posts up to Assoc. Design Director in the New York (and briefly Hamburg) offices.

Some clarifications/corrections: Landor is part of the Young & Rubicam network of companies, which is then further owned and a part of the WPP Group conglomeration of ad agency networks (Y&R, Ogilvy, Red Cell, JWT). Other brand identity firms in the network are The Partners, Enterprise IG, Ogilvy's Brand Integration Group, and some others which I don't recall now.

No need for a ton of detail here, but design fees generally don't hit the $3-5 million mark unless the client is a long-term relationship and the work encompasses many different aspects from identity, packaging to strategy. They are usually much less, and even lower in the packaging area.

Anyway, we all have our opinions on what's a 'good' and 'bad' design company, so I won't try to refute what Joktu said. I gather from the "personal witnessing" of recycling work that he used to work at one of the Landor offices? That's a bit of a blanket statement; I'd say that it happens sometimes (and it's not ALWAYS bad), but it's not exactly dictated corporate process. The majority of designers indeed feel the passion for the craft of great design and do strive to create something new.

My personal feeling is that it is a great training ground for a designer. The beauty of a company NOT run by a strong-minded design entrepreneur is that they trust their staff enough to teach them all the aspects of the business. I've known of many companies that were more afraid of a designer running off with business than teaching and advancing them within the company structure. Also, with such a large organization, there is the benefit that when positions aren't available in your office, there might be one at a different office and they do transfer people around from time to time.

The work indeed ranges from great to pretty horrible (Pizza Hut is not my favorite...) I've found, no matter where I work, that the quality of work produced often depends more on the client than on the design firm. For the amount of money being spent, the client tends to want a 'guaranteed' success, and that often means work that is more mainstream. Some large companies can manage to make the large fees/great work equation work out more in the designs favor (Pentagram is a good example - although they've done some pretty horrible things too - i.e. Citibank) but often the path to more clients is by hitting that larger mainstream target.

If this all seems like I'm trying to defend them as the greatest shop ever, well, that's not the case. If it were, they'd be my current, not former, employer! I'm now on my own, and hopefully I can use what I learned there (the good and bad) to increase my own ablility to generate good work for good clients.

On Sep.23.2002 at 10:47 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Jon,

Thanks for the great insider scoop. I think the most important point you made is about creating work that is more "mainstream", and the fact that their work is always on target with the intended audience. Even if it's not as "sexy".

On Sep.23.2002 at 01:20 PM
joktu’s comment is:

I offer my abject apology for the ´┐Żblanket statement’. I do my best at avoiding generalizations, when I'm not frothing at mouth that is. It is difficult to offer objective observations through the subjective lens of personal experience. Thank you for that comprehensive outline of Landor's affiliation.

But do I also a detect a trace of injury and regret? No doubt Jon has forged some strong friendships in his five years with the agency. This duration must have earned more than a supervisory title for you. And I am genuinely glad that your experience has been positive. So it also comes as no surprise that you will cast a more moderate light on the place and people whom you've come to regard as family.

I am likely to respond in kind if someone were to speak dismissively of cherised former co-workers.

I'll end by stating that while I maintain my cynicism of marketing agencies [and their perception of design (generalizing again ;-)] as I am of organized religion and its interpretation of God, I concede Armin's point that these institutions are an instrinsic feature of the capitalist landscape. That doesn't say anything does it?

In any case, I hope the industry finds you well and that your post Landor experience will prove equally positive.

On Sep.23.2002 at 01:41 PM
Jon’s comment is:

A lesson I've learned — and, ironically enough, via a froth-filled post on another blog — is there is a place for all types of design and all qualities, even if it is not necessarily to my liking. Landor (and others of it's ilk) fits into it's spot in the marketplace as much as the $99 "Logo While You Wait" shop.

Instead of arguing amongst ourselves about which firm is better and which sucks, we ought to focus on getting the business community (and their own clients/customers) to understand why better, strategically-focused design is better for them. Its one thing for design magazines to complain about the rash of swoosh designs, but it would be great if Fortune would run articles on great web designs and how they've helped or hindered company sales performance, just for example. This may seem like it's starting to veer off-topic (but hopefully not off-kilter), but I believe clients with better understanding of what design can (and can't) do would lead to better expectations from their design firms and, in the end, better, more differentiating, and successful work.

On Sep.23.2002 at 02:16 PM
Kippy’s comment is:

We (TSYS) paid 2 million . . . that's the rumor. . . to call ourselves what marketing and executive management didn't want to call ourselves. Frankly the branding is better now, we used to look like we ripped of the IBM logo . . . now we look like we ripped of the FedEx logo. www.tsys.com

On Sep.25.2002 at 07:27 PM